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The Myths, the Reality, and the Emotions During Pregnancy

You may be wondering how is it that people experience loss while being pregnant? Many people believe that being pregnant should be a happy and joyful time, just like graduation or getting married, and for the most part, it is. But when people realize their lives are about to change forever, they may begin to experience loss. These forms of loss and grief are normal and natural reactions to a massive change that is going to happen in a short nine months. Feelings such as loss of freedom, loss of independence, and fear of the unknown and many other losses can be experienced.

For some, preparation can only go so far. People will never truly know what it is like to be a parent until they are one, and that can be fearful to many.  Some people may feel as though they did not do all the things they wanted to before having a baby such as traveling, going to university or buying a house.  Some may feel a loss of freedom in their lives because of their new roles and responsibilities.

Now, since we thought that pregnancy should only be full of happiness, love and joy, how do you think these conflicting thoughts and emotions make these women feel? They may feel as though they are an “emotional wreck” or that something is “wrong with them”. They may even question “Why am I not happy? I should be?” Grief and loss can be experienced by anyone who is pregnant, whether the pregnancy was planned, not planned, or unexpected. I have asked three women to kindly share their stories about their unique pregnancy journey.

Anonymous 1

It has always been a dream of mine to start a family and have the experience of becoming a mother.  I am happily married, settled into my career, financially stable, own a home, and I have all of my “ducks in a row” so-to-speak.  I am as ready as one can be I guess.  When I imagined what my reaction would be when I would find out that I was pregnant, I assumed I would cry tears of joy and be overcome with feelings of excitement and happiness. I’m deeply emotional and figured this experience would be no different. After all, my husband and I were planning for this. We were ready to start our family.

The truth is, when I first found out I was pregnant, I remember feeling completely numb and in disbelief. I was taken aback by my reaction. For the first time, my husband and I didn’t know what to say to each other. We looked at each other blankly, as our new reality began to sink in. We couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Over the next few months I began to grieve my life as I know it. Most notably, the freedom that my husband and I have in our life together (ie. travelling, spontaneous trips, date nights, etc.) and my career endeavors.  We have known a certain way of life for so many years, it was hard to imagine bringing a baby into the mix.

My career has been a significant part of my identity, passion, and purpose, and for the first time, it will not be in the forefront of my life. This was hard for me to grasp. My fears were that I would be replaced and forgotten, and miss out on incredible opportunities. I also worried about how I was going to manage running my business, nurturing my marriage, and raising a child.

As my pregnancy has progressed, my feelings of fear and loss have shifted to feelings of happiness, excitement, and anticipation. We found out that we are having a boy, and my thoughts are now consumed with all of my hopes and dreams for our son and our new life as a family. I have fallen in love with my baby and can’t wait to meet him!

My initial reaction to finding out that I was pregnant were not at all what I anticipated. With that being said, I know that grief involves conflicting feelings, so I was very accepting and understanding of the feelings I did have.  It has been interesting to experience the changes in my emotions over the past five months and how unique and different of an experience it has been. I look forward to the new adventures and challenges that lie ahead for my husband and I!

Anonymous 2

My husband and I had always said from a young age when we started dating that neither of us wanted to have kids. It was important for me to tell him what my future looked like because people can have such varying views when it comes to having a family.

To me there were so many reasons I didn’t want to have children. There was so much I felt I wanted to accomplish in life that I knew it would be much more difficult with babies. I wanted to get a university degree because my most important goal in life was to be able to support myself no matter what life threw at me and I didn’t want to have to rely on someone else. I also wanted to travel and not be confined in one place.

My husband and I were together for 5 years and then got married, and instantly everyone in our lives were asking when we were having kids. It was very difficult to tell them that we weren’t planning on having any. That was another thing that really bothered me is that people just expected women to get married and drop everything to be a mom. As soon as you start to tell people you don’t want children they see you negatively. Our own family members would say things and look at us differently because they just didn’t understand. We would just try to bring humor to it so they wouldn’t think we were awful people and just tell everyone that we were too selfish. Saying we were too selfish isn’t a positive way to put it but it was the easiest because that’s what people were saying to us anyways.

I didn’t have a very positive childhood and I always thought I would end up being a bad parent because of that. This was one of the major pushes for me to get myself an education and not have a child or children too soon in life when I wasn’t anywhere near financially or emotionally ready, and to make sure my spouse and I were on the same page.

I completed The Grief Recovery Method Program a few years ago and it helped so much with me to bring peace to myself and especially to the rocky relationships with my parents. This helped me overcome some of my fears and thoughts about being a parent and I saw it much more positively because it would be up to me how I was with my kids, not based on my parents. Once I started to see the positive with being a parent and less of the negative, my views really started to change.

After seeing my friends having babies, I all of a sudden wound up with baby fever. Being 27, educated, married, financially stable, emotionally stable, and with a solid 10-year relationship with my husband we felt it’s a good time to venture into parenthood. Even though I’m sure there will be surprises along the way because no one really knows how to be a parent until they give it a try, we are beyond excited and happy that we changed our minds about having a baby, not just one, we figure if you’re having a family you may as well go all out so we plan on having four!

 Anonymous 3

I live a typical life that any 22-year-old woman would love; loving boyfriend, great friends, supportive family and a good career. I have been a dental assistant for 3 years and I am currently working on completing post-secondary school for dental hygiene in South Texas. A very short 31 weeks ago, I found out I was pregnant (it still doesn’t feel real). I have always wanted kids and planned to have them in my future. My boyfriend and I had the “perfect” life planned; I was going to finish school, move back to Alberta, find a job, buy a house, get married, and have kids. Sounds picture perfect right? Yeah… I thought so too. What I quickly learned is that life has it’s own plan for you and honestly, that was the scariest lesson to learn.

I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant. Those two pink lines…. On every test I took…. Over and over and over. Considering I was on birth control, I didn’t believe that it could be true. I will never call my baby a mistake or an accident but she definitely was a HUGE surprise that we were not expecting! I don’t think it’s right to tell someone how they are “supposed” to feel but our society has portrayed pregnant woman to be glowing, magical, beautiful, happy, excited beings. Before my experience, I believed those things were true as well. All of those emotions are great, but what about when you feel sad or scared or lost?  After telling my boyfriend and our parents, the initial shock wore off and reality set in. I will not sugar coat this part at all because the feelings I felt were so real and still are. I was alone, in another country, trying to finish my degree and now pregnant. I was scared, angry and confused. How could my perfectly planned life be so far off the tracks? I believe that I lost a part of my individuality and independence. I had conflicting feelings of wanting to experience and accomplish so much more in my life and that had been taken away from me. And why was I feeling anger and resentment when pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life? How was I supposed to finish my education while raising a baby? So many questions and zero answers. I was searching for any way possible to rewind and start over. I had so much I wanted to accomplish and experience before becoming a mom. As the weeks passed, I was expecting these feelings to fade away and the exciting, magical, butterflies and rainbows of pregnancy to set in. To my surprise, I was wrong. My image of being pregnant was nothing like I had imagined and all I wanted was my “normal” life back. I started pushing my boyfriend away unknowingly, became depressed and turned into a person that I didn’t know. I felt like I lost a part of myself and I was never coming back.

Then the guilt set in. I asked myself how I could be feeling this way when every other pregnant woman was so happy and glowing? Why couldn’t I be like them? What was wrong with me? Why was I feeling so sad? Society had built an image of pregnant women in my mind and I totally believed it was all rainbows and butterflies. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake these awful feelings. Everything I thought, felt and experienced were definitely the farthest thing from what I expected. I felt sad, scared, alone, depressed and angry. Definitely far off from the magical, happy glowing woman I thought I was supposed to be. But that’s because no one ever talked to me about the bad parts of pregnancy. I had no idea pregnancy could trigger feelings of grief and loss until I talked to my beautiful friend, Gina. I spilled every emotion I was feeling to her and her uplifting words of encouragement seemed to settle me. I was not crazy for feeling this way, it was actually natural and more women dealt with it then I ever imagined.

I sit here today writing this message, over-joyed to be expecting my beautiful baby girl who I love so much already. I no longer feel those feelings of resentment or anger. But I am still scared silly and have days where I feel like I’ll never be ready for her. (After talking to many other women though, I hear that that’s normal). Now, I believe that I can still experience and accomplish all the things I wanted to before becoming pregnant, I just have to find a different way of doing so. I have incredible support from my family and friends. And as for my boyfriend and our plan… we have decided that we’re going to do things backwards instead!

I will cherish the experience I have had during this pregnancy, the good and the bad, as it has helped me grow as a person. Pregnancy is a beautiful part of life but is the hardest thing I have ever dealt with. You aren’t crazy and what you’re going through is so normal. I wouldn’t change a thing in how my life has played out and am a strong believer in “everything happens for a reason”.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: Xerv_II/Thinkstock